DENVER -- With their pitching staff depleted due to injury and having to use five relievers in the first game of their doubleheader Tuesday, the D-backs were desperately hoping for a big outing from Joe Saunders in Game 2.
That's exactly what they got.
The left-hander allowed just two runs over eight innings for his first win of the season as the D-backs beat the Rockies, 5-2, to split the double dip at Coors Field.
"Joe threw a great game," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "Just what we needed."
The D-backs dropped the first game, 12-4, and in the process reliever Juan Gutierrez suffered a shoulder injury that rendered him unavailable for the nightcap. With starter Josh Collmenter lasting just 4 1/3 innings, Arizona had to use its bullpen more than it wanted during the afternoon.
"We were short," Gibson said. "Eight very strong innings, and [Saunders] really got stronger as the game went on."
"You've got to tip your cap to the second guy that went out there," Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said. "Saunders did a great job, he really did."
Saunders helped himself in the field as well.
With runners on first and third and two outs in the third, Saunders' pitch got past catcher Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler raced for the plate. Saunders ran from the mound to cover home, and he, Fowler and the ball arrived roughly at the same time.
Saunders applied the tag just before Fowler touched the plate and the two collided, as Saunders flipped over Fowler for the final out of the inning.
"I caught the ball and he hit me at the same time," Saunders said. "I was just trying to focus on trying to not let him get the plate as much as he could. It's kind of a blur. I remember flipping over and then I remember my head [hitting] the ground and I was like, 'Whoa.' I just laid there, because my head was a little numb."
Saunders regrouped during the inning break and went back out there for the fourth. Had he not been able to continue, the D-backs' already thin bullpen would have been greatly tested.
"I'm like, 'I can't come out of this game,'" Saunders said. "Our bullpen would be toast for the rest of the week, so I just tried to suck it up the best I could and throw some quality innings for us and go as long as I could. It was a little cloudy at the plate, but I just tried to focus as best I could and keep pumping strikes."
Saunders got some early run support thanks to a first-inning solo homer from Kelly Johnson.
Jason Giambi tied the game in the second with a homer of his own, and things stayed that way until the fourth, when Xavier Nady gave the D-backs a 2-1 lead when his grounder got Johnson home from third.
The D-backs gave themselves a big 5-1 cushion in the sixth when Johnson, Stephen Drew and Montero each hit RBI doubles.
The win for Saunders (1-5) was his first since he beat the Rockies on Sept. 21, 2010, a span of 11 starts. It marked the first time this year that Saunders lasted at least seven innings in a game.
"I feel like I got the monkey off my back, that's for sure," Saunders said.
With Saunders at 100 pitches through eight, Gibson toyed with the idea of letting him try to finish things off, but instead went to closer J.J. Putz, who is now 13-for-13 in save opportunities.
"It was kind of his game," Gibson said of Saunders. "But J.J.'s been perfect."